BANGOR, Maine — Two groups of protesters — with two very different views on the state’s and nation’s political picture — held walks Saturday to voice their opposing viewpoints.
For the “Walk for Real Security,” sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, about 75 people gathered at noon in Davenport Park to show their support of health care reform, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, workers rights and anything else that provides “real security” to the people of Maine, members said.
The second walk was a “tea party” protest held at 1 p.m. in front of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Harlow Street, to show opposition to the government’s tax-and-spend ways, socialism and the lack of support from state lawmakers who turn a blind eye to what residents want, members said.
“Tea” stands for “Taxed Enough Already,” Lois Bloomer, president of the Maine Federation of Republican Women and one of the organizers of the Bangor event, said Saturday, carrying a few tea bags in her pocket.
The tea party group made its way to the Kenduskeag Stream bridge on Hammond Street, where the loose tea was symbolically dumped into the waterway. The group of about 20 protesters then stood at the bridge holding signs.
Protesters in the Peace & Justice walk made their way from Davenport Park to Eastern Maine Medical Center and back, a distance of about 3 miles. In addition to their signs, participants also had drums and other instruments they played along the way.
University of Maine philosophy professor Doug Allen got the rally going by first thanking all who came out from all over the state to support the walk, then saying that the demonstration was “a symbolic march for real security.”
Joyce and Luther Lovely of Orono said they are appalled by the way big insurance companies are using scare tactics to intimidate people in the health care debate. The two marched in the Peace & Justice walk to show their support of health care reform.
“I feel the insurance companies are the cause of the problem — not the solution,” Joyce Lovely said in a light but distinct British accent. “I lived under the British system for 20 years and nobody there goes bankrupt because of their medical bills.”
Julia Hathaway of Veazie said she has been raising children for 19 years without health insurance.
“It’s really, really scary when you have a sick child and not only have to worry about what’s wrong with her but also” about paying for seeing a doctor, she said. “We’re too rich for Medicare but too poor to get health insurance.”
Local activist Ron Warner said the money the U.S. has spent on the wars in Iran and Afghanistan could pay for a lot of doctor visits and preventive care for the poor.
“For the $1 trillion we’ve spent there, we can have health care,” he said.
The Peace & Justice walk also included a number of teens, including a group from Bangor High School.
BHS senior Will Witham said he was at the Peace & Justice walk to support health care reform, workers rights, gay marriage, free trade and just to be involved.
“There is a lot of apathy among students,” he said. “It’s really sad.”
One student who stands on the opposite side of the fence from Witham is Kelsey Burke of Holden, who attends John Bapst Memorial High School. She said she’s worried about government spending and her future tax bill. She said if today’s out-of-control government spending doesn’t stop, “when I get a job, I’ll have to worry about paying my taxes, not just holding down a job.”
Standing beside Burke were her parents, David and Katia Burke, who said they attended the tea party protest because they could no longer sit back and watch the government spend their money.
“I just feel like we’re getting hoodwinked,” Katia Burke said. “Everything is just going through so fast, I think so we don’t notice.”
David Burke said the numbers that are coming out of Washington about health care reform just don’t add up.
“Eighty-five percent of the people are covered,” he said. “Why should we change the whole system” to address the needs of a few, he asked.
All three Burkes said they were upset with how state lawmakers were voting in Washington.
“Our representatives are not representing us,” said Katia Burke.
A tea party protest also was held on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. It included thousands of marchers who, along with the Bangor protesters, oppose what they see as Obama’s socialistic political views.
“We are holding a tea party just to protest the things going on in Washington,” Bloomer said.
She added that the group doesn’t support heath care reform, socialism or new taxes, but does support Taxpayer Bill of Rights II, or TABOR II, which aims to rein in state and local government spending and would require voter approval for tax increases.
Mainers will vote on whether to approve the TABOR II referendum question in November.
While protesters were sometimes loud during Bangor’s two opposing walks Saturday, they were peaceful.